Tag Archives: Kidd Pivot

Goodbye to Lena, swan song for Gavin, the Brontes and kickin’ with Cedar Lake

By Martha Ullman West

Art Scatter is always pleased as punch to accept an essay from its chief correspondent and occasional world traveler, Martha Ullman West. MUW has been a busy woman lately. Herewith we offer her personal recollections of the late, great Lena Horne; her thoughts on the swan song of dancer Gavin Larsen, retiring from Oregon Ballet Theatre (plus other thoughts about OBT); Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance; and a comic theatrical riff on the Bronte sisters. Whew: That covers some territory!

Cropped screenshot of Lena Horne from "Till the Clouds Roll By," 1946. Wikimedia Commons

First and second thoughts on a Monday morning —

I was going to start this post with some second thoughts about Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s recent Duets concert series and specifically last Sunday’s matinee performance, Gavin Larsen‘s last as a principal dancer.

But I logged on to my e-mail an hour or so before I began writing and found that a high school classmate had forwarded me the New York Times obituary for Lena Horne, so I’ll start with some extremely vivid memories of her that go back, oh dear God, 58 years.

Original poster from Lena Horne's 1941 movie "Stormy Weather." Wikimedia CommonsHer daughter, Gail Jones, was a year ahead of me at a Quaker boarding school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., called Oakwood. The glamorous Lena Horne was a loving, devoted mother, who always came to Parents Day — and so did my father, believe you me.

First memory: October of my freshman year, Lena in a red velvet suit, prowling (no other word for it) along the football field, definitely deflecting fatherly attention from the game as well as the nubile cheerleaders, although Dad claimed for years he heard a Quaker referee calling “Thee is out.”

Second memory: Two years later, a cold wintry day, I was running barefoot down the hall of my dormitory when that unmistakable voice called from Gail’s room, “Child, put your shoes on — it’s freezing in here.” I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, and there she was; looking, needless to say, stunning. And stern. I put my shoes on.

Third memory: The American Masters PBS show twelve years ago in honor of her 80th birthday (and she looked about 50, I might add), which I imagine PBS will reprise and I urge all Scatterers to watch. Daughter Gail Jones’s history of the Horne Family is also well worth reading. As is the Times obituary. Lots of “Stormy Weather” in Lena’s life; damned if she did, damned if she didn’t, and did she ever overcome, with astonishing glamor and grace.


There was plenty of grace
of a different kind, and glamour best described as casual, as Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers filed past Larsen at the second intermission a week ago Sunday. Larsen was still in her Duo Concertant practice clothes costume, crowned with a ballerina’s tiara. The casual part applies to the jeans-clad dancers who each gave her a single rose and a kiss as they walked past her: It’s a tradition that began, I believe, at the Paris Opera Ballet.

Continue reading Goodbye to Lena, swan song for Gavin, the Brontes and kickin’ with Cedar Lake

Kidd Pivot’s got the power at Kaul

Let’s say you’re in Portland and you don’t anything on for tonight, or maybe you have something on, but you’re dreading it. Or Saturday night. If you are in that circumstance, then Art Scatter suggests that you drop in on Kidd Pivot, at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium. It’s that good.

Kidd Pivot is the brainchild of Crystal Pite (rhymes with kite), a Vancouver, B.C., choreographer, who danced with Ballet B.C. and Ballett Frankfort, where she worked with William Forsythe. She founded Kidd Pivot in 2001, though she continues to choreograph for other companies.

For the White Bird series
, Pite and her company of six are performing Lost Action (2006). It’s a 70-minute, one-act (no intermission) concert that only lags a little toward the conclusion, primarily because of false ending or two. Until then, though, the action, lost or not, is totally engaging. For this dance, Pite has borrowed a little hip-hop, knitted things together with repeated actions and tableaux and employed a propulsive movement device: The dancers typically run pell-mell through a phrase that stops stock still; then they sprint off again. And even when they are doing slower phrases, they frequently end motionless.

She favors movements of the arms extended or bowed and shoulders, though in one delightful moment a leg extended above a dancer’s head descends in a soft S curved, a remarkable effect, which fortunately repeats! The dance is gestural, definitely, and some of the sections seem to tell a little story. In a recurring motif, a dancer collapses and other dancers stand above him looking down, eventually picking him up and “reviving” him in a sort of “passing” ritual. There’s a little parka section (O Canada!). There’s drama and tension and sadness. The solos are uniformly excellent, primarily because the dancers are, I suppose. Swift, athletic, open to the moment. They partner the same way: You don’t notice the precision at first because they make even difficult moments, and there are lots of those, look easy.

I especially liked the sections for the four men in Kidd Pivot. The specific physical attributes of men are frequently under-realized on dance stages, but Pite takes advantage of the power and speed and abruptness her men bring. Which isn’t to say that the other women are overwhelmed here. Pite is an amazing mover — powerful, agile, quick, bristling with kinetic energy. And Marthe Krummenacher and Francine Liboiron bring some specific talents to the table, one longer and expressive and the other smaller and sharper.
Continue reading Kidd Pivot’s got the power at Kaul